***WARNING GRAPHIC CHICKEN BUTCHERING CONTENT***
Homesteading isn’t always roses and daisies. Today found us busy butchering meat chickens on the homestead. As happy as I am to know that we now have 10 completely organic, non-GMO, happily-raised chickens in our freezer, it certainly wasn’t easy. And no, it did not save us any money. Not yet at least.
I checked prices of whole organic chickens at our local grocery store this morning. $2.99 per pound for a whole, organic, “vegetarian-fed,” young chicken. (These people apparently don’t realize that chickens are anything but vegetarians! They love their creepy crawlies!) How they kept these chickens vegetarian while free ranging them kinda makes you wonder just how much you can trust the labeling system. I’ve heard, but have not seen it myself, that in order to call chickens “free-range,” the chickens have to have access to a door that leads outside. The chickens may never take a step outside, but they’re “free-range.” Can you see why I wanted to raise my own? Click HERE for more explanation of the different labeling.
After reading Joel Salatin’s book, Folks This Ain’t Normal, I was ready to jump in to the world of raising our own meat chickens, or broilers. The hubby and I found a local farm that was selling meat chicks for $3 each. We bought 15. In the first week, two died. I’ve heard meat chicks can be tough to keep alive. It’s true. Joel’s book, Pastured Poultry Profits, was a big help in keeping naturally healthy chicks!
But finally butchering day came. With 13 chickens fattened up after 8 weeks, the hubby and I set up shop. We hung a 2″x 4″ across two fence posts near the coop. From those, we hung two orange traffic cones the hubby had bought from Lowes as our “killing cones”. We cut the end off of them (about 7″ or so) so the chickens’ head would hang below it. We basically used the same technique Joel Salatin uses.
(Did I mention this was a first time for both of us? Hence the reason I won’t be sharing any of my own videos, but those of people who know what they’re doing far better than we!)
It worked pretty well. I was the chicken catcher, and the hubby pretty much did everything else. I knew I wouldn’t be able to. I was the main one to raise them. I’ll eat ’em, but I couldn’t be the one to “do the deed.” Thank goodness for a hubby who not only did it, but did a great job. (I’m just proud of myself for not losing my breakfast or bursting into tears!)
We decided to skin them, instead of plucking feathers. Neither of us eat chicken skin and who wants to deal with all those nasty feathers?!? It worked out great. (Plus we don’t have one of those cool plucker machines.) (*2016 Note: We do now! We bought a YardBird Plucker and LOVE it!)
After cleaning them, we wrapped them in plastic wrap and then in butcher paper. We figured this should work pretty well, as this is how most meat comes from the butcher.
As to the saving money part…. No, we did not save any money. The average weight of the chickens was 3.5 pounds. (I think next time we’ll let them go a bit longer. Now we both know what they look like at this weight.) We originally bought 15 chicks at $3 each. Two died. We butchered 10 chickens. With organic, non-GMO, no corn, no soy feed costing about $35 per 50 lb. bag, and the chickens plowing their way through about a bag a week, feed was approximately $280. So with all costs added up, including the two chicks who didn’t make it, our per pound price for 10 broilers came to about $8.95. Uggg. I can get *supposedly* the same thing at the store for $2.99 per pound.
But what kind of price do you put on chickens you know were raised humanely and with love, you know exactly what they were fed, how their health was taken care of, no chemicals whatsoever were ever used or added to the butchering process (ie. carcasses soaked in bleach water)?
Plus we kept one rooster and two hens. We believe in keeping sustainable flocks. Frank, our Easter Egger rooster, has served us well and will continue to do so (no matter how much of a jerk he can be), and we hope to do the same with these meaties. As long as everything goes to plan, we hope to raise our own chicks from now on. So that $45 original investment will hopefully be well worth it, and that price per pound will start shrinking.
*2016 Note: We purchased a YardBird for this year’s 40 meat birds. We ended up raising Red Rangers in a chicken tractor. We LOVE our YardBird! All you local chicken people, we are now renting it out! Contact me for more info!)